The authors of the climbing guidbooks to Corsica

Thierry Souchard et Bertrand Maurin, les deux auteurs des guides d'escalade OmegaRoc
Thierry Souchard and Bertrand Maurin at work.

Thierry, the Parisian street urchin, roosted for a while amongst the Montpellier crags before crossing the sea to settle in Aiacciu in 1997.

Bertrand, who had left the island for a few years, returned in 2000. He was sure at that point that Corsica would be his base camp.

They were both members of the Corsica Roc club and quickly began working on projects together. Bolting, rebolting, maquis removal and site maintenance kept them busy for a while. Then, using their own resources, they created the guidebook Escalade autour d’Ajaccio which subsequently provided most of the funding for construction of the Kit Grimpe Aiacciu climbing gym, resulting from the work of several motivated climbers with relevant professional skills.

The original idea behind the Falaises de Corse guidebook took hold when several members of the Corsican branch of the FFME came to realise that a reference guide describing all sites on the island would be very useful. An increasing demand from the public and above all the publication of foreign guidebooks no longer justified the romantic idea of “secret spots”. But the initial project, which consisted of drawing up a summary of the information provided by the various protagonists in each micro-region, was never published due to a lack of public funding. After waiting for two years, the two friends took on this project themselves and worked tirelessly to ensure Falaises de Corse could be released in June 2006. Bringing the FFME into the picture as a natural partner, Thierry and Bertrand named the organisation as the third author of the guidebook. Profits made by the Federation are used to bolt new crags and to maintain existing sites.

Constantly out and about climbing in the area, the two friends gathered information and every two years produced a corrected and improved new edition of the Falaises de Corse guidebook. At the same time, Thierry had a project that he often brought up for discussion… But Bertrand proved to be a slippery customer and cunningly avoided being pinned down. One fine evening in the summer of 2010, Thierry arrived at Bertrand’s house clutching a bottle of perfectly chilled Pumonte rosé. Both the level in the bottle and Bertrand’s resistance dropped away rapidly. Taking advantage of his rather tipsy condition, Thierry persuaded him to relapse, this time for multi-pitch routes. The morning after, Bertrand promised never to drink again, but it was too late and the only thing to do was to get back to work. Fortunately, in this new adventure, the pleasant part of the task involving climbing the selected routes made the hours spent in front of the computer pass a little faster. Grandes voies de Corse was ready and under the tree for Christmas 2011. The baby, although conceived under the influence, appeared to be of good stock.

Thierry takes notes during a wintry climbing week end at Paliri. Paliri.

Thierry became a climbing instructor and joined the ranks of the marvellous world of tanned*, muscular canyoning instructors. His summers became aquatic and very busy. Bertrand lazily took full advantage of this to escape far away to the Great North, stupidly believing that he would be permanently out of reach of any rapid developments in the project. But remember that Corsica is his base camp and he rarely says no to a little glass of wine…

And indeed, at the first opportunity, Master Thierry gave him this earful :

“You know Bertrand, globalisation isn’t an abstract concept and Harstad (Bertrand’s northern hideout) is less than a day’s journey from Aiacciu. Also, this magic thing called the internet does work across borders. Thanks to remote working you can work as if you were here all year round… bla di bla… bla di bla (as Greta Thunberg would say). We have to admit that, just like the story of the hunter and the bear, Bertrand quite liked it because he went back for more .

So an arrangement was made: Bertrand came back to Corsica for a few months per year and worked remotely the rest of the time (a kind of pre-covid lockdown). Successive re-editions no doubt left Thierry with too much free time, so he decided to launch a worldwide guidebook project… nothing less! Fortunately, Thomas Pesquet is the one who went to the international space station. If it had been Thierry Souchard, we would have had a guidebook for the universe! In any case, this project allowed Bertrand to enjoy a few years of respite in which, for the first time, he managed to escape properly. It was also the last time…

His holidays came to an abrupt end when the Rock around the World guidebook was published. He began work on the next endeavour: putting together a great guidebook focused on Bavella. This is Bavella – Corsica. Escalades choisies.

Progress on this project was like a wild boar charging through the island’s maquis; nothing could stop it. Climbing apps are becoming the norm and Thierry, like all good stationmasters, decided it was best not to miss the train. So they set off for a new adventure, this time a digital one, involving a partnership with Vertical Life and Climbing Away. But this was a little too simple and the stationmaster became a stylist, stating that “customisation” was required. Within two years, the OmegaRoc app V1 was online. This version was relatively well-designed but required improvements and new functions. Hence the inevitable V2. As the saying goes, give him an inch and he’ll take a mile … V3 will certainly follow, then V4, etc.

The rest of the story remains to be written. But with three guidebooks in the works and an app undergoing continuous improvement, there is plenty to do for the moment.

* In his case the tan ranges from a pretty pink to a fiery shade of crimson.